The Problem with the Digital and a new Bill of Rights

    "Fences", Robert Frost writes, "make good neighboors."  They give each their private spaces, without the interference of others, as we all know.  What many don't realize, however, is that many fences are 'invisible'.  That is to say, they are not fences in the ordinary common sense of the word--man-made objects such as barbed wire, wood, or a concrete wall--but rather consist of natural boundaries that, as a result, do not need humans to undertake any action (ie actually put a fence in place) for these fences to be present as they already exist.  These might include both natural objects--a mountain range, a sea--and human made ones, such as languages.  Many of these natural fences, in being part of one's environemnt, are hence not much contemplated and noted until they are "torn down", symbolically speaking, and their implicit benefits inmediately removed.  In other words, the construction of "bridges" naturally undermines the important purpose and role of a fence.  There are many different types of "bridges": roads, cars, airplanes, sattelite images, and the internet.   While we might tend to think that 'bridges' of the sort are inherently good because of the pervasive existence of 'fences' in human history--such as the role of distance in human affairs, as we aproach the digital age where everything becomes almost an 'open living room', one might begin to consider in this new context the negative implications and, inversely, the positive benefits of fences.   One dreadful implication that inmediately comes to mind is the abuse of power that might naturally come as a result of these torn walls.   The abuse of power that could be exerted by these overseers is tremendous.  Natural social fences allow individuals to 'begin anew': old mistakes are unknown, and a person can rebuild their lives.  This was the case of a woman in a Southern US state who had been given an extraordinarily long prison sentence for drug posesion at the age of 18, escaped prison, and began life anew in another city under a different alias, married, had children, but was ultimately arrested some two decades later.  Anyone who read the story could not but conclude that the entire criminal procedure, from punishment to re-arrest, constituted cruel and unusual punishement.  The tearing down of fences via the internet, in this sense, constitutes an undue "use of [government] force" in that the arm of the law extends incredibly far and wide, much more so than it has ever existed in human history.  The conclusion that naturally arises from this observation is that a Bill of Rights needs to be completely rewritten to preserve its spirit and funciton in the era of the digital.

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